I don’t disagree with some of the practical merits of seeing the other angle, I just think that Jesus’ more significant role is as the oft-rejected (by “good” Christians)stranger/guest who we are called to welcome as part of our own salvation. This interpretation is hardly new. First, to understand the Bible we should try to pare away 2,000 years of traditions that have accumulated as we read the Bible through the perspective of our own culture and time. But no man including Ian looked at the behavior pattern that ensued after Katie on December 3rd posted a very provocative question challenging the premise of the ‘shame’ position of this post. What, then, does it mean for the kataluma to have ‘no space’? Original Question: Was Jesus born in a stable or a cave? 5) Mary tells her parents and they panic – will Mary be stoned to death? Next. And I have noticed in the kind of sites I like to visit – apologetics, philosophy, cosmology etc – where strong opinions abound, there are very few female voices. Really enjoyable, always informative (annual) read – thanks! In Matt 5.15, Jesus comments: Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. A similar question on the out of wedlock theme had occurred to me on reading your post (though I have been persuaded by KB’s case for some time). The shame motif in Matthew is found only in Matt 1.19. My Hungarian isn’t very good…, Oh, you are too modest, Ian …. You are quite right to highlight the scarcity of wood, which we easily forget. It’s my first time reading it. The house where Yeshua (Jesus) was born was a Jewish home. So that is where Jesus must have been—despite the experience of many who live in rural settings. I will continue to pursue this annual tradition, since it is actually rather important. If Matthew had included the shepherds we would be definitely looking for the OT allusions, but Luke is writing to a more Gentile group and I suspect this group would see these night-workers as poor and marginal. I preached on this theme at a Carol Service, and you can read my sermon here. It is Judea, right? Are they the night-watch, the poor employed night-workers, or are they the hard-pressed owners of a few sheep who take turns to keep watch, or are they better off, though still doing some night-shifts? I’d suggest an apology. The notion that Bethlehem, according to Mark Goodacre, could have been Joseph’s hometown (as opposed to ancestral home … which could be both, actually) is okay. Carlson’s contribution inspired me to try and put together a new narrative. this excellent example from Stephen Kuhrt. Rather, he is in the midst of the family, and all the visiting relations, right in the thick of it and demanding our attention. A. But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. As you point out, it also cleverly keeps Jesus far away from us and on a pedestal, making it both impossible and pointless for us to actually follow Jesus, which was the entire point of the Incarnation (read Athanasius, people!). Can you see now why the angels were so happy to be able to tell people that Jesus had been born? I am sorry to spoil your preparations for Christmas before the Christmas lights have even gone up—though perhaps it is better to do this now than the week before Christmas, when everything has been carefully prepared. That is for the article! No-one knows where the person on whom the biblical character of Jesus, was born. ‘I am still not convinced that the idea of a ‘stable’ has no merit.’ I wouldn’t strongly disagree here. I try to write little stories out of conjectures like yours. If we’re trying to read our Bibles correctly, surely we notice that the location is never given as Palestine in any of the gospels? It isn’t. And could that be a reason why there was ‘no room’ for them? This objection also assumes that the events in Matthew’s Gospel take place immediately after Jesus was born. 9) Many months later Magi arrive What happens to virtue in an age of social media? In fact, no-one knows who the person on whom the biblical character of Jesus was based even was. The main character of the play was an innkeeper. There is circumstantial evidence linking Hadrian with the name change, but the precise date is not certain and the assertion of some scholars that the name change was intended “to complete the dissociation with Judaea” is disputed. These details help us to draw other conclusions. I shared your article on Facebook, and a lot of my Hungarian friends told me that they have difficulties understanding English. “Germany”, “Allemagne”, “China”, “Korea” etc) which have little or no relation to what the inhabitants call it. However, there are a number of alternate possibilities of the location of Yeshua's birth: 2) Through Z & E a marriage is arranged between Joseph of Bethlehem and Mary Where do you keep animals? He also denies the view that Jesus was born in a stable or barn. So Luke is definitely trying to tell us that Jesus’ birth was extraordinarily humble (laid in a manger) because of a ‘lack of room’. Nice to see that one part of a traditional Christmas is intact in 2020 – this post! I’d be interested to know your thoughts on this. A query: why did so few women get involved in this particular discussion? Can you? In that context, the kataluma where he stayed would not have been an Inn, but a guest room in the house of the family where Joseph and Mary were staying. It reminds me of a moving video called “The Christ Child” depicting this in a way that perhaps at least comes closer to what may have happened, more inline with what you explain in your article. Moreover, the actual design of Palestinian homes (even to the present day) makes sense of the whole story. Worth also noting a. that the shame motif in Matthew is quite private at every point and b. that the ancient world wasn’t great on its biology, so I don’t know how clearly the dates would have counted. Bailey’s explanation of the manger area seems preferable, so if they were ‘banished’ it was only downstairs and they would then still be in the family home. But one last question remains. Yes, but where? Hi Brian, that sounds interesting. If the term wasn’t used in the first century, it shouldn’t be retrojected. 2 Timothy 2:23 Pandocheion, pandokeion, pandokian (Gr.) I have been convinced of this way of looking at the Christmas story since I first read Kenneth Bailey’s book around 10 years ago. This blog is highly valued by many. I’m not familiar with Nolland’s argument, but why would the mou be added to conform Luke but not Matthew? (rock baby Jesus) His Mother was Mary, (hands together in prayer) And the Angels did sing, (hand together in prayer) “Glory to God!” (hold up arms in praise) Ian, I really appreciate you writing about this every year. Just like the comet that celebrated Caesar or the eclipse that accompanied the death of Jesus, the star of Bethlehem was supposed to herald an … Why was Jesus born in a stable? There was no place or people group with that name. The shame that Matthew records is the shame that Joseph would have felt, but Matthew tells us Joseph accepted Mary and presumably therefore protected Mary – I think I am right that after betrothal sexual relations were permitted (though I can’t find the source for this). So Jesus would not have been born in a detached stable, but in the lower floor of a peasant house, where the animals were kept. It is all too easy to read later, rabbinical Judaism back into the NT. I don’t engage with all comments, and I sometimes offer one line and at others comment at length. God’s love extends to the whole human race! Couldn’t we also assume that they told the truth about the situation to the relatives and been accepted to stay in the house? This fact has led some to believe that Jesus may not have been born in a stable or barn, but in a house with a lower floor serving as a nighttime shelter for the families’ animals. I wonder also if there is a hint in Luke’s account that it is the availability and willingness of the Shepherds that means they were used by the angels. We get to a point where what you/men say has no meaning nor value for us. Is thee a female Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett or Sam Harris out there? 1) Mary’s family regularly stay with Zechariah & Elizabeth during their regular visits to Jerusalem for the major festivals. “This should fundamentally change our approach to enacting and preaching on the nativity.”. While the Bible doesn’t use the word “stable,” it does say that the baby Jesus was laid in a manger—in other words, a feeding trough, which tells us they were in an area where animals were fed (Luke 2:7). This is subversive stuff. – (i) In 5th C. BC Greece an inn used for the shelter of strangers (pandokian=’all receiving’). I am more puzzled by the shepherds. Surrounded by farm animals, the Christ child is laid within a manger, a stable that was likely made of wood with hay on the ground. This has nothing to do with the major teachings of the Bible. Actually I have highlighted why this matters quite a lot. It is a bit complicated. Thirdly, there is simply no evidence that shepherding was anything shameful; in fact, in that part of the world quite the opposite. I am still not convinced that the idea of a ‘stable’ has no merit. My mind is swimming with all of the implications this information now provides for preaching Jesus birth. Yes, it is, if you think that what people need to hear is the actual story of Scripture, rather than the tradition of a children’s play. I think it is hard to overstate the shame that out of wedlock pregnancies would have engendered in the time of Jesus. I wish I had the benefit of all of these thoughtful reflections and intriguing questions back then! The scarcity of wood, the rock and caves, these are factors supporting single room, single family homes. What were the early Christian communities like. 7) M & J live peacefully in Bethlehem until the baby is born. Kenneth Bailey, who is renowned for his studies of first-century Palestinian culture, comments: Even if he has never been there before he can appear suddenly at the home of a distant cousin, recite his genealogy, and he is among friends. Joseph was a tekton, which I believe is the sort of carpenter who erects wooden frames for houses rather than the type who makes tables and chairs. He was clothed with rags. If you want to press that point, you will need to offer something more systematic. We cannot easily continue our normal routines and traditions, especially leaving our homes in order to travel to a cold and drafty building to make the once-a-year pilgrimage to a place of devotion, as so many do (and mostly do not return in the New Year). Tim Chaffey, AiG–US, examines this commonly held belief. It would be reasonable that he was in Nazareth working on the nearby rebuilding of Sephoras. If public comment is risky, then you have to be less risk-averse to comment, and that is a well attested sex difference. With them, Jesus is now revealed as the host/Savior because they became his guests. Any problems? If so, Luke does not let his readers in on this information! The answer is “both.” He was born in a cave that was a stable. Previous. There is reference to this in Matthew’s account, though that is private—but I cannot see the motif of shame in Luke’s narrative. I am afraid I do not know enough to be able to say whether Luke’s primary reader (Theophilus as he is described) was, given his Greek name, actually unlikely to be someone who was culturally Middle Eastern. However, the term appears to be a corruption of Pelishti, or Philistines, so there was a double insult in using the name of Israel’s historic foe to name the land. Jesus was not born in a palace of gold; He was born in a stable. It is similar to what I experience with the carols themselves. The gospel accounts were written in a culture where it would not have been necessary to explain or describe the reactions of those in the story as the readers would have automatically shared it. There is some reason for doing this; the word is used in the Greek Old Testament (the Septuagint, LXX) to translate a term for a public place of hospitality (eg in Ex 4.24 and 1 Samuel 9.22). For Paul, the significance of his reinterpretation of the story is that it undercuts the idea that what made Jesus remarkable was that he was born to humble, outcast parents. I have spoke to a number of Pastors, and speakers who have said that they agree with this interpretation but there would be such an uproar from many of the people attending that it wouldn’t be worth it. A question was asked as to why more women aren’t commenting on this blog. D. Perhaps you should turn it into a story. I am glad also that you spoke up for the women of Bethlehem, assisting (as all women around the world do) a woman in childbirth. The short answer is he probably wasn’t. He was placed in a manger. I think your argument is pretty convincing. I understand your point on this being Joseph’s home town. As Bailey explores in his Jesus Through Middle-Eastern Eyes, most families would live in a single-room house, with a lower compartment for animals to be brought in at night, and either a room at the back for visitors, or space on the roof. The birth of Christ may be the most famous Bible story of all, reprised annually in nativity scenes across the world each Christmas: Jesus was born in a stable, because there was no room at the inn. I think it is quite well documented that women are much more reluctant to engage in online conversations generally. In fact, one late manuscript variant reads ‘lead it out from the house and give it water.’. Even if there were an inn in Bethlehem, Paul argues, Joseph and Mary would not have been staying there. On the contrary, the term was used by Ovid in the fifth century BC with reference to the region as a whole, so it is not anachronistic to use it. Not sure what you mean by this. Keep going Katie!!! He looks in detail at the phrase often translated ‘there was no room for them in the kataluma‘ and argues that the Greek phrase ouch en autois topos does not mean ‘there was no room for them’ but ‘they had no room.’ In other words, he thinks that they did stay in the kataluma, but that it was not big enough for Mary to give birth to Jesus in, so she moved to the main room for the birth, assisted by relatives. The earliest scholar to put it forward was the Spaniard Francisco Sánchez de las Brozas, in 1584. It seems harsh to exclude the inn-keeper in the current economic climate, but the birth does seem to be domestic in location. I was chatting to my friend about it and we were wondering whether Joseph and Mary’s families would have been prepared to host a woman who was pregnant with an (apparently) illegitimate child. But I still think the text explains it clearly with “no room”. (I promise, not a word about your Great-uncle Vlad…. Motive is not good. British Palestine also denoted a huge area, including present day Jordan. And a study here from the Guardian. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judea_(Roman_province), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syria_Palaestina, https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0230043, https://www.psephizo.com/biblical-studies/the-presentation-of-jesus-in-luke-2/, https://www.comeuntochrist.org/light-the-world-2020/the-christ-child. ‘Palestine’ was used from the 5thC BC, as a Greek translation of the term found in the Hebrew Bible. This kind of one-room living with animals in the house at night is evident in a couple of places in the gospels. 6) During Mary’s stay something is indeed sorted out with Joseph (with the help of the angel) and it is decided that Mary (then 3 months pregnant) should return to Nazareth before it is obvious she is pregnant and that Joseph will come and take his bride complete the marriage, They were non-religious cultural habits.”. On the theme in Luke, I would push back again: unlike in the Fourth Gospel, the theme in Luke is of both rejection *and* acceptance. But it smacked me right across the face. So why has the wrong, traditional interpretation persisted for so long? It means that many, like Joseph and Mary, have travelled to Bethlehem, and the family guest room is already full, probably with other relatives who arrived earlier. I remember visited excavated houses at Chorazin, with roofs made of basalt blocks because of a lack of timber in the area. Instead, Jesus was most likely born in a house. December 2, 2020. Furthermore, if he did not have family or friends in the village, as a member of the famous house of David, for the “sake of David,” he would still be welcomed into almost any village home. Could you point to textual evidence of a shame motif in Luke’s account? Alongside putting up the Christmas decorations (usually far too early), finding a Christmas tree, preparing for carol services and planning where to buy your turkey, one of the annual routines at Christmas is my posting the argument that Jesus was not born in a stable. I don’t see a rejection of Jesus in his infancy and childhood in Luke 1-2. Are they those who could never attain purity because of the work they did, and so part of the “sinners”, the people of the earth, rather like the tax-collectors? In the Christmas story, Jesus is not sad and lonely, some distance away in the stable, needing our sympathy. [ii] Approximately a century later, Aristotle used a similar definition for the region in Meteorology, in which he included the Dead Sea. I also think it is clear that discussions in comment all too quickly engage each other in a combative debate between commentators, rather than commenting on the content of the article. The actual name that Herodotus used for the region was “Suria he Palaestinè” or ” Palestinian Syria” and this was Romanised in AD 135 as “Syria Palaestina”. Yes, I would agree. Yes of course—but the things we are referring to here (such as hospitality, the importance of family connections, the keeping of animals) were not distinctively *Jewish* practices, but part of the wider culture of that part of the world. 11) When they are able to return their initial thought is to return to Bethlehem, but they do not consider it safe so go to Nazareth. If we call these ‘Judaean’ houses, it suggests something unique to this province. And it has long been clear to me that the “pantes” in Luke 2.18 who heard the shepherds’ message must refer to a good number of people present at the birth, not simply Joseph and Mary (who already knew). Perhaps your experience makes the case for involving children’s group leaders, and parents, in sermon planning…?! Were they getting it wrong that long ago? I’m so very glad I found this! (AV). It was small, and there was certainly no room to give birth in it! He believes that Bethlehem was not Joseph’s ancestral home, but his actual family home, for two reasons. Jerusalem was also renamed then as “Aelia Capitolina” in an attempt to abolish its Jewish character. Happy to be pointed to it and change my mind. Showing 12 coloring pages related to - Jesus Born In Stable. Moreover the modern christmas story and practice is one that has little resemblance to the original in truth or action, I read it all. Second, I think both the cultural and the linguistic evidence is very compelling that there was no stable, no banishment and no distance. At the very least I would like to see some of this teaching inserted into a normal Service in order to enrich the understanding and theology of the congregants. This supposed place of the birth was already identified by the time of Egeria. But Jesus wasn’t born in a stable, and, curiously, the New Testament hardly even hints that this might have been the case. How should evangelicals respond to racism? Everyone knows Jesus was born in a stable and laid in a manger. November 30, 2020 by Ian Paul. The name is derived, of course, from the Persian province of Yehud, a small region focused on Jerusalem, as the successor of the pre-exilic Kingdom of Judah. Amy Orr-Ewing is the only female apologist I’ve heard of, and a very able one she is. The Stable. To some this may seem commercial or trite, but I believe we are greatly influenced by what we see and touch, both as adults and as children. Suppose Jesus was born eight months after they married—why would that be a cause of public shame? [Was Amos a sheep-owner shepherd, or a hired shepherd – it depends which word for shepherd we take as more important?] At least, not in the traditional sense. After Mary places the baby in the manger, Luke immediately draws attention to the shepherds, whom I am inclined to think were ‘outsiders’ of some sort even though they also had a significant biblical heritage. I myself often fled into the open country simply in order to be able to think. Watch out for snipers. Kenneth Bailey’s very interesting (and to my mind persuasive) exposition of the parable of the prodigal son to answer the Muslim assertion that the cross is not referred to in that parable is an extended case in point. “I should add that referring to cultural practices in the region as ‘Jewish’ is misleading, since it suggests these things had a religious origin or identity, which they didn’t. Jesus was Born in a House Obviously it’s Matthew who highlights the shame theme in his portrayal of Joseph’s dilemma – is that not an indicator of a wider cultural attitude, even if Luke leaves it unmentioned? When you visit Bethlehem you are shown the cave of the birth, marked with a silver star under the church of the Nativity. In typical Lucan fashion the good news comes to those who are the last and the least (even though Luke writes to the privileged Theophilus). Joseph had only to say, “I am Joseph, son of Jacob, son of Matthan, son of Eleazar, the son of Eliud,” and the immediate response must have been, “You are welcome. is surprisingly tricky. I think I have seen one, which someone pointed out last year. I wonder how it was found out … and, primarily, does this refer to Joseph “finding out”? The mention of a ‘manger’ in Luke’s nativity story, suggesting animals, led mediaeval illustrators to depict the ox and the ass recognising the baby Jesus, so the natural setting was a stable—after all, isn’t that where animals are kept? Instead, when Jesus comes to the heart of the Jewish faith, the Temple at 40 days and 12 years of age, he is greeted with joy and amazement. Mary wouldn’t know that what the angel had said had come true for up to 4 weeks. hem. It is helpful to ask why Luke includes this account, what it does to the overall message of the gospel, what Luke thought it added or affirmed. Where is Dibley, anyway? Above the stable, Haley’s comet streaks across the sky. An interesting and thought provoking article. This is a beautiful story retold countless times at Christmas time. And given Arab mobility, some ask serious questions as to whether ‘Palestinian Arab’ can really be a national, political designation. I have to agree with the author that there doesn’t appear to be a shame aspect. The question "Where was Jesus born?" It does not detract from the fact Jesus came, died and rose again for us all; and that’s the important news. Quite probably another member of her family would have been present, if, as has been pointed out earlier it is virtually impossible to be alone in that culture. And Bailey notes that Alfred Plummer, in his influential ICC commentary, originally published in the late nineteenth century, agreed with this. Maybe the old word “Levantine” conveys the regional-cultural meaning best. I gave an Advent sermon once in which I expounded Bailey’s thesis, complete with images depicting reconstructions of typical first century village homes in Palestine. I regularly interview women scholars, and I invite guest posts from women and men—though the women more often decline, and the men more often accept. So why should any woman comment if their opinion is not going to be engaged with? Make the most charitable construal of the views of others and seek to learn from their perspectives. The question of where Jesus was born is often answered with a city – Bethlehem. Thank you for writing this article, Ian. Our problem is constantly imposing modern estimations of value on the ancient context. “Most families would live in a single-room house, with a lower compartment for animals to be brought in at night, and either a room at the back for visitors, or space on the roof. Was Jesus born in a stable or a cave? This concept is familiar to me and I have embraced it for some time. If this is true, in addition to depressing women’s commenting rates overall, gendered disparities in commenting should be stronger where risk to career is more salient, such as when authors do not have a permanent position. Thank you. For me, the answer is the ordinariness of the first witnesses, to whom the angel choirs sang and who were given the privilege of being the first witnesses. I Google searched “Jesus wasn’t born in a stable” and here i found your writing. Secondly, it is easy to underestimate how powerful a hold tradition has on our reading of Scripture. Can you? 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